Reynolds Fellowship in Community Journalism

The Donald W. Reynolds Nieman Fellowship in Community Journalism is offered annually to journalists who work at a U.S. daily and weekly newspapers with a circulation less than 50,000. Made possible through a grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, the fellowship is also open to journalists doing online work for community newspapers or journalists who have established independent local news websites in communities where the circulation of the local newspaper is less than 50,000.

Recognizing that the distinctive voices of local journalists and newspapers play a critical role in informing citizens in many American communities, the Nieman Foundation awards the fellowship to journalists of accomplishment and promise who are committed to the role of the community press. These journalists increase the visibility and perceived value of community journalism both during and after their Nieman year.

Fellows spend their time at Harvard building a network of professional contacts and receiving specialized training designed to help them do more compelling journalism for their local communities.

Liz Mineo, a reporter for The MetroWest Daily News in Framingham, Mass., was the 2010 Donald W. Reynolds Nieman Fellow in Community Journalism. At Harvard, she studied the social, economic, political and legal implications of the recent waves of Latin American immigrants to the United States, with a special focus on Brazilian immigrants.

The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation is a national philanthropic organization founded in 1954 by the late media entrepreneur for whom it is named. Headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada, it is one of the 50 largest private foundations in the United States and has invested more than $100 million in its National Journalism Initiative. The Reynolds Foundation has committed to sponsoring the community journalism fellowship, which is now in its sixth year, through 2015.

Julie Reynolds
Community Journalism in Action

When Julie Reynolds, the 2009 Reynolds Fellow in Community Journalism, returned to her post at The Monterey Herald, she took time to write about the significant impact her Nieman Fellowship has had on her work:
The best news is that my project at Harvard has come to some positive fruition. When I was a fellow, I studied Ceasefire, a program started in Boston to lower gang shootings and murder rates. I intended to make it my paper’s mission to hold Salinas (California) leaders accountable if they didn’t at least try that sort of evidence-based strategy. Well, thanks to Melissa Ludtke (editor of Nieman Reports), I met the state’s new gang “czar,” Paul Seave, who has embraced Ceasefire and has given Salinas the money to do it.

My paper has led the way in providing the platform for the city to define, debate and explain Ceasefire to local residents, and we’ve issued report cards along the way to keep officials accountable.

Now, more than a year later, the city is quite transformed and, I have to say, cautiously optimistic for the first time in the eight years since I’ve worked there. The number of shootings has dropped by 20 percent. Murders are down by 40 percent. We all know this trend could turn around at any minute, but for a city that set the per capita record for gang murders in the state only last year, this is truly astounding. I credit the local leaders and the gang czar for a lot of this, but I know my paper is playing a key role in pushing things forward and setting an intelligent tone to all the local media’s coverage of Ceasefire.

If I hadn’t studied this program during my Nieman Fellowship, I know it would have been a fight to get my paper to give it so much ink. But the magic word—Nieman—meant they trusted its importance. I met with a national coalition of city leaders at John Jay College in New York City last summer to analyze Ceasefire's application around the country. The data is encouraging and I continue to meet with the group to find ways academci researchers and reporters can work better together.

I’ve long said I could die happy if I could have any role in bringing peace to Salinas and stop kids from killing kids. It’s too soon to say this is definitively working, but it’s an amazing start.

What else? I’m back to muckraking, getting into hot water lately with some big-time drug dealers and organized crime types.

So I guess that’s all a long way of saying I’m doing great! Very inspired and happy.

One of the best things that came from the fellowship was actually learning to live in the moment. Something that mystics and lots of other folks talk about a lot, but I guess the fact of only having a year to savor it all made us learn to zone in on every day and every moment we were there. I think a lot of my class has carried this on... I feel it at our reunions, a real joy being in each others’ presence.

– Julie Reynolds*
   The 2009 Donald W. Reynolds Nieman Fellow in Community Journalism

* Julie Reynolds is not related to or affiliated with anyone at the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.